In November 1961, South Africa concluded a contract with the French company Panhard forthe supply of 100 AML (4 x 4) armoured cars armed with a 60 mm mortar and AA52 machine guns. An order was also placed for 150 Giat 90 mm DEFA gun turrets and components for a further 500 units.
In January 1962, tenders were requested from 12 local South African companies for the manufacture of 350 Panhard AML armoured cars complete with turrets and 150 without turrets. Only four companies responded to the tender, which was subsequently awarded to Sandock Austral.
The original South African Defence Force order was for 600 AMLs of which 100 came direct from France and the remaining 500 were locally manufactured. Of the latter, 350 were armed with 60 mm mortars, a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and a 7.62 mm antiaircraft machine gun and the remaining 150 were armed with a 90 mm gun.
The first locally manufactured armoured cars, called the Eland Mk 2, were delivered in July 1963 and had a local content of 40 per cent. Between eight and 12 units per month were delivered forthe following 16 months. The Eland Mk 1 was the version imported from France. The Mk 2, 3 and 4 versions of the Eland all had an imported Panhard petrol engine which was air cooled. The Mk 2 had an improved steering system, the Mk 3 had an improved brake system and the Mk 4 had an updated fuel system and an electrical clutch. Although the three versions are similar externally they are different internally.
The Mk 5 was the first version with a locally built engine, this was a 2.5 litre water-cooled petrol engine which could be changed in the field in 90 minutes. It also had locally developed hydraulic clutches, communications equipment, springs, shock-absorbers, wheels and run-flat tyres.
During 1972-73, the assembly of 356 Eland Mk 5 armoured cars was completed and delivery was at the rate of 24 vehicles per month. A programme was then completed during 1974-75 for the repair and conversion of earlier Elands, which included a complete rebuild of the vehicle, general repair work and overhauls which converted the vehicle to the Mk 6. This programme involved the conversion of a total of 1,016 vehicles.
The final version of the Eland was the Mk 7, which was introduced in 1979. It has new power brakes, an increased storage capacity resulting from the slightly longer chassis, inclusion of a freshwater tank and a more comfortable driver's compartment. External modifications include a towbar at the front, halogen lights on the mudguards and the commander's cupola with armoured glass windows which allows the commander to see through a full 360°.
South Africa also made the complete 90 mm gun for the vehicle as well as a 60 mm mortar, machine guns, optics and ammunition.
Production models of the Eland were armed with a 90 mm gun/7.62 mm coaxial and 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine guns or a 60 mm mortar and a 7.62 mm machine gun. A model with a two-man turret armed with a 20 mm cannon and a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun was also produced. A number of this last version were supplied to Morocco.
Ninety-five per cent of the Eland was produced in South Africa by the time production was completed. Total South African production of the Eland amounted to approximately 1,300 vehicles.
In 1994, production commenced of the upgraded Eland Mk 7 DT (4 x 4) armoured car for an undisclosed export customer, believed to be the Congo. The DT in the designation stands for diesel turbocharged.
With the entry into service of the more powerful 76 mm Rooikat (8 x 8) armoured car, most Elands are now being phased out of service in South Africa.
The Mk 7 DT is powered by a turbocharged 2.4 litre water-cooled four-cylinder overhead valve diesel engine developing 103 hp at 4,000 rpm, which gives the vehicle a maximum road speed of 85 km/h.
It can stop from 60 km/h to 0 in 45 m on a tar surface. The fuel tank holds 142 litres, including 15 litres in the pick-up tank which gives an operating range of 450 km at 80 km/h on roads and 240 km at 30 km/h crosscountry.
The engine and cooling system is mounted on sliding rails to facilitate field maintenance.
Reumech OMC has purchased 200 Eland 60 and 90 vehicles from the South African National Defence Force and these are available for upgrade to the Mk 7 DT standard.
Other options include improved vision and surveillance equipment, new communications equipment and run-flat tyres.
Production complete. Refurbished vehicles available for export.
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